...a new industry has arisen which contributes not a little to confirming stupidity in its faith and to ruining what might have remained of the divine in the French genius. The idolatrous crowd postulates an ideal worthy of itself and appropriate to its nature -- that is perfectly understandable. As far as painting and sculpture are concerned, the current credo of the sophisticated public, above all in France...is this: ‘I believe in Nature, and I believe that Art is, and cannot be other than, the exact reproduction of Nature....Thus an industry that could give us a result identical to Nature would be the absolute of art.’ A vengeful God has granted the wishes of this multitude. Daguerre was his Messiah. And now the public says to itself: ‘Since photography gives us every guarantee of exactitude that we could desire (they really believe that, the idiots!), then photography and Art are the same thing.’ From that moment our squalid society rushed, Narcissus to a man, to gaze at its trivial image on a scrap of metal....Some democratic writer ought to have seen here a cheap method of disseminating a loathing for history and for painting among the people....
From that moment onwards, our loathsome society rushed, like Narcissus, to contemplate its trivial image on a metallic plate. A form of lunacy, an extraordinary fanaticism took hold of these new sun-worshippers.
The photographic industry was the refuge of all the painters who couldn’t make it, either because they had no talent or because they were too lazy to finish their studies. Hence this universal infatuation was not only characterized by blindness and stupidity, but also by vindictiveness.
In these sorry days a new industry has arisen that has done not a little to strengthen the asinine belief… that art is and can be nothing other than the accurate reflection of nature… A vengeful god has hearkened to the voice of this multitude. Daguerre is his Messiah.” “If photography is permitted to supplement some of art’s functions, they will forthwith be usurped and corrupted by it, thanks to photography’s natural alliance with the mob. It must therefore revert to its proper duty, which is to serve as the handmaiden of science and the arts.
A revengeful God has given ear to the prayers of this multitude. Daguerre was his Messiah. And now the faithful says to himself: "Since photography gives us every guarantee of exactitude that we could desire (they really believe that, the mad fools !), then photography and art are the same thing."
If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it altogether, thanks to the stupidity of the multitude which is its natural ally.
All children talk to their toys; the toys become actors in the great drama of life, reduced in size by the camera obscura of their little brains.
Let photography quickly enrich the traveller's album, and restore to his eyes the precision his memory may lack; let it adorn the library of the naturalist, magnify microscopic insects, even strengthen, with a few facts, the hypotheses of the astronomer; let it, in short, be the secretary and record-keeper of whomsoever needs absolute material accuracy for professional reasons. So far so good. Let it save crumbling ruins from oblivion, books, engravings, and manuscripts, the prey of time, all those precious things, vowed to dissolution, which crave a place in the archives of our memories; in all these things, photography will deserve our thanks and applause. But if once it be allowed to impinge on the sphere of the intangible and the imaginary, on anything that has value solely because man adds something to it from his soul, then woe betide us!
As the photographic industry became the refuge of all failed painters with too little talent, or too lazy to complete their studies, this universal craze not only assumed the air of blind imbecile infatuation, but took on the aspect of revenge…the badly applied advances of photography, like all purely material progress for that matter, have contributed to the impoverishment of French artistic genius.
If photography is allowed to complement art in some of its functions, the latter will soon be ousted and ruined by it, thanks to the natural confederacy which will have grown up between photography and the crowd. Therefore photography must return to its proper duty which consists in being a servant to the sciences and the arts.
This industry [photography], by invading the territories of art, has become art’s most mortal enemy.
I would very much like to have a photograph of you... [but] I must be there. You know nothing about them, and all photographers, even the best, have ridiculous mannerisms. They think it is a good photograph if warts, wrinkles, and every defect and triviality of the face are made visible and exaggerated; and the HARDER the image is, the more they are pleased.